Togo’s Fumey will stand for FIDE President

The chess community on the African continent is buzzing at the news of Enyonam Sewa Noël Fumey announcing his candidacy for FIDE President. According to the FIDE press release, Fumey notified current FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich of his intentions. There was also this plea of inclusivity:

“FIDE machine is working effectively, but with my team, in a collaborative spirit with the current administration, we will ensure to deliver more and in a more efficient way, especially towards small federations”.

~Enyonam Sewa Noël Fumey

With the discussion burning up African WhatsApp chess groups, it does beg the question… has Dvorkovich done enough to build bridges with smaller federations? He certainly advocated such a plan during his election campaign and visited the Grand Chess Tour in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. He also stated that he desired to see the Olympiad held in Africa. However, the 49-year-old Russian national has reportedly come under fire after he attempted to distance himself from Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24th. Ukrainian Grandmaster Ruslan Ponomariov has called for Dvokovich to resign stating that FIDE “can’t be ruled by Russia with bloody Russian money.”

Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE)

The situation has put Dvorkovich (and Russian players) in a very tenuous situation. Many media outlets wrote on the risk of Dvorkovich speaking against the invasion. It was widely reported at ChessBase and that some of the top Russian players have already migrated to countries such as Spain, Slovenia, Uzbekistan and Serbia. Alexandra Kosteniuk has been shuttling between France and Russia. Her husband GM Pavel Tregubov has been a resident of France for 20 years.

Enyonam Sewa Noël Fumey (Togo) and Lorng Charles (Cote d’Ivoire)
Photo by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

What does all of this mean? It means that Dvorkovich is in a very difficult situation and it may open the door for another candidate to pose a strong challenge. Fumey has been the Federation President of Togo since 2017 and has developed some exposure standing on the ticket with Dvorkovich in his bid for Presidency in 2018 at the Chess Olympiad in Batumi. That experience provided the Togolese with an inside look and the inner workings of the massive organization. The linguist is an example of a man who has slowly worked his way up. Fumey helped to form the Togo Chess Federation in 2003, and later help lead the body to join FIDE in 2012 (Istanbul, Turkey).

According to Africa Chess Media, Fumey recounted Dvorkovich’s reaction.

“The FIDE President understood the will of the team, to offer an alternative solution to FIDE in view of the complex geopolitical situation, which is affecting FIDE.

He further stated that the ambitions will be treated well by the FIDE administration and the whole electoral process will be open, transparent, and equitable.”

~Fumey on Dvorkovich’s reaction

~Fumey on Dvorkovich’s reaction

Dvorkovich conferring with his General Secretary,
Enyonam Sewa Noël Fumey of Togo.
Photo by David Llada

The continent of Africa has been gaining momentum in the past several cycles with increasing membership as 50 of the 54 nations are represented. Meanwhile, there is already jockeying for the position of African Chess Confederation leadership as well. Lewis Ncube is the incumbent.

As is the case for all candidates, there will be questions about Fumey’s qualification to run an organization of this magnitude. Togo is a rather small chess country and Fumey is looking to solidify Togo’s place on the chess map.

The question is can he accomplish the required consensus-building needed to win such a major election? Can he win the influential federations in North America and Europe or will the strategy be to focus energy on the large number of smaller federations”? Is the chess community ready for a President from an African nation? The first month of campaigning will be crucial to set the tone. Fumey offers “an alternative solution to FIDE in view of the complex geopolitical situation,” and hopes to bring new ideas to a rapidly changing chess landscape.

There are those who believe that chess is a “European sport” and that developing regions are not as interested in its affairs. Recently, GM Jacob Aagard asserted

I also do not believe that we have to overly estimate the moral importance of Zambia, Burma, and Paraguay and their non-caring, when seen from the chess world. Reality is that chess is a European sport, which has become big among Indians and Chinese too. We have become vastly richer for it and it is a great thing. But it is still a predominately European sport.

~GM Jacob Aagard on the role of smaller federations in global affairs

Moral importance? This is the sentiment that Fumey will face because quite a number of influential members within FIDE have a similar mindset. We may recall that Africa was in the middle of a debate on election corruption in 2018 pertaining to some of its federations receiving bribes. Given that African nations have traditionally been marginalized in FIDE proceedings (until election year), this candidacy will send a strong message. Africa has risen and has the talent to lead.

Campaigning officially starts today.

All the best!

Enyonam Sewa Noël Fumey
Togo Togo Togo


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